I've copied the very first version of the first half of the very first chapter (pulled from my email from 2009, when I sent it to Natalie Whipple under the title "A Present"), and then shown the markings for how it varies from this to the final version, along with commentary on why I did what I did. I hope it's helpful!
Chapter One: Oh, Bite Me
Like I’d never seen this one before. I might be sixteen, but trust me, I’ve seen a lot of things in my lifetime. And what I was looking at right now was so utterly unoriginal I actually yawned.
We cut this opening paragraph entirely, feeling that starting with the vampire reaction was a stronger setup. It rendered this paragraph redundant. The fact that she is yawning is enough to tell us she's not impressed by vampires. Also, I didn't start out with chapter titles, but added them pretty quickly in the first draft.
“Wait—did you—you just yawned!” The vampire’s arms, raised threateningly over his head in the classic Nosferatu Dracula pose, dropped to his sides. He pulled his exaggerated, gleaming white fangs back behind his blood red lips. “What, imminent death isn’t exciting enough for you?”
Ah, Nosferatu. You'll always be my favorite, but you aren't as instantly recognizable to the masses as Dracula and were thus replaced. It's important to keep audience in mind when making cultural references. Writing for teens is not writing for my generation, and the cultural touchstones everyone recognizes are different. I also cut just a few of the descriptors--here we have exaggerated, gleaming, white, and blood red. A little much.
“Oh, stop pouting.But really—the widow’s peak?The pale skin?The black cape?Where did you even get that thing, a fetishcostume store?”
Hee. Yeah, decided to cut the reference to a fetish store, given that this is a book for twelve-and-up. I dialed back a lot of Evie's commentary in edits. If you can say one funny thing instead of two, probably best to go for one.
He raised himself to his full height—just over six feet—and glared icily down at me. “I’m going to suck your life from your pretty white neck,” he whispered.
We don't need to know exactly how tall he is. Glaring icily down lets us know he's taller than Evie. I also cut about 75% of my dialog tags in revisions, always. Be ruthless with dialog tags.
“Go ahead,” I sighed. I hated the vamp jobs. First of all, they all think they’re so suave—it’s not enough for them to just slaughter and eat you like a zombie would.No, they want it to be all sexy, too.And trust me: vampires?Not.Sexy.I mean, sure, their glamours can be pretty hot sometimes, but the desiccated, dry-as-bone corpse bodies shimmering underneath?Nothing attractive there.Not that anyone else can see them, though.
He lunged forward; He hissed; just as he reached for my neck, I tased him.
What, you were expecting holy water? A cross? A stake? Please. I’m herewas there to bag and tag, not to kill.Besides, if I had to carry separate weapons for every single paranormal I taketook out, I’d be dragging around a full luggage set.Tasers are a one-size-fits-all paranormal butt kicking option.Mine’s pink, with rhinestones.Tasey and I have had a lot of good times together.
More cleaning, refining, taking out unnecessary words. A lot of editing Evie is pulling her back--cutting down the number of times she addresses the reader, eliminating a good bulk of her running commentary. Also, and this is weird, I have always hated that I let the copyeditors take out that comma in the middle of "Mine's pink, with rhinestones." In my head she says it with a pause. I should have fought for that comma.
Oh yeah, the vampire. He was twitchingThe vamp twitched on the ground, unconscious.He actually looked reallykind of pathetic now; I almost felt bad for him.Imagine your grandpa.Now imagine your grandpa minus fifty pounds.Now imagine your grandpa plus 200 years.That’s who I just sent a whole bunch of electricity through I'd just electrified.
Messy, messy. More cleaning, streamlining, tightening. I also had to be careful not to let Evie pull the reader out of the narrative too much, which is what her "Oh yeah, the vampire." thing did--reminded the reader she'd been off on a tangent and that they needed to get back to the story.
Tasey’s work done, I reholstered her and pulled out the vamp-specific ankle bracelet. Bracelet being a loose definition of a fairly complicated and bulky device. They’d been streamlined in the last few years—you should have seen the early versions. It was like the difference between that great big camera your dad used to take pictures with when he was a teenager and your sleek, slim digital camera. And still they complain.
Again, too much explaining. I took out a lot of her explanations (though I still kept her talking directly to the reader as a narrative device, just in moderation) because I needed to trust my reader to a) suspend disbelief and b) wait long enough to get answers about just who she was and what she was doing. A mistake I (and many writers) make in first drafts is not trusting the reader. You give them just enough to hook them--they'll keep reading to get answers. They don't need you to hold their hand through the first few chapters. I find my first chapters always lose the most lines out of any sections. That's okay! First chapters are when I am feeling out voice and setting up world. Sometimes I need to write things for me and then lose them later on.
I'm going to stop there; I think you have a clear enough idea of what my edits look like. It's all about tightening, refining, streamlining. Don't use four bland details when you can use two really good ones. Don't have something happen and then have your narrator think about exactly what just happened. Don't underestimate readers' ability to go along with you. These are things I have to remind myself every single book! Also worth noting is that many of these edits were my own, but several of them were also suggestions from my crit partners and my phenomenal editor, Erica Sussman. Sometimes you stop being able to see your own writing; this is where working with people smarter than you comes in handy.